A huge haul of illegal tobacco and vapes valued at more than £200,000 has been seized in an operation on Tyneside in Newcastle.
The stash stored in metal containers in a compound on Newcastle riverside was uncovered earlier this week after a tip-off, Newcastle City Council stated today (9).
Newcastle City Council’s Trading Standards and Northumbria Police swooped on the compound and used oxyacetylene torches to gain access to two containers that contained 12,500 packets of cigarettes (250,000 individual cigarettes), 50kg of hand rolled tobacco and 1,500 vapes that did not comply with UK health regulations.
The haul was estimated to have a retail value of £215,000 or street value of £105,000. It is one of the biggest found in recent times and dealt a major blow to organised crime, preventing thousands of dangerous products flooding the streets of the North East.
Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet member for a Dynamic City, Cllr Irim Ali, said: “This operation has dealt a serious blow to organised crime. I’d like to thank Newcastle trading standards and Northumbria Police for their sterling work in preventing this illegal contraband from getting onto our streets.
“Illegal tobacco, apart from evading taxation, does untold damage to public health, and while vapes are considered much safer than smoking it is illegal to sell vapes to under 18s where a lot of this stuff is ending up. The growing use of vapes by children is becoming a serious issue as recognised by Government.
“This sends a clear message to people who bring illegal tobacco into the country. If you do, and we find out, we will seize it and it will cost you dearly. Crime does not pay and in the end, we will catch up with you.”
Acting Chief Inspector Kevin Ashurst, of Northumbria Police, said: “This is an excellent result and a testament to the important work we are doing alongside our partners to root out illegal cigarette and vape operations in our communities.
“These items are believed to be counterfeit and while the public might not see the harm they cause, we know that the proceeds of their sales is often invested into organised crime and can help fund more serious offences like drug supply and even trafficking – and this is something we will not tolerate in our area.
“We will continue to work with our partners and help to take harmful and illegal items out of circulation. We would ask anyone with information or concerns around the supply of these products continues to share what they know with us.”
The haul is now under lock and key at a secret location while police and trading standards conduct a criminal investigation into how the haul came into the country and where it was destined for.
The haul will now be destroyed, stated the council.